View Full Version : He's Seeking Conflict to Feel Better


Kitty15
03-25-14, 01:55 PM
My boyfriend is 21 and has ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). He's medicated and he's wonderful but he can't go without an extreme anxiety attack for more than 3 or 4 months. When he gets like this, he seeks contact like usual but ignores me, acts uninterested and aloof. When I ask what's going on he gets angry and says he doesn't want to talk to me. But when I ignore him he tries to make me talk. This happened yesterday over Facebook and one hour later he showed up at my house at 3 am in the morning saying he wanted to go out with me. I tried to understand the situation but he didn't want to talk about that. I ended up going out with him. He seemed fine but a little distant. I respected his space and didn't ask him any questions about what happened earlier. But as the hours passed, he couldn't keep with his happy act anymore. He was agitated, sad, couldn't look me in the eye. Said he didn't want to go home because he didn't feel like it. I wanted to stay there with him but he didn't want me around. Or so he said because everytime I've tried to send him home or talked about going home he found little ways to make me stay.

But then I got mad. You see, 4 months ago, before he was medicated he acted like this for three straight weeks and talked about breaking up with me. Like I was the cause of all his bad humor. When he realized I had enough and was willing to let him go, he changed to his normal self. But during that time, I could tell he was gradually feeling worse. Now he had no problem at all! He was great with me during the day.

To finish my story, when I asked him what the hell was going on, he stormed off, left me there on the street at 5:30 am and yelled “Don’t follow me!”

I left him a message trying to explain my point of view and then I went to his place (bad idea, I know). He sent me away, as expected. I didn’t even got to say a word.
Then he sent me a message on Facebook calling me selfish and spoiled. Saying I was behaving like this because I want everything to go on my way, that I didn’t respect him, saying I was not worried about him but only about myself. And I swear it was not like that. I went to his place because his house mate called worried, trying to find him and my boyfriend had told me he was spending the night out. I was worried sick about him! I went there a few hours after that call because his friend didn’t give me an update and he said he would.

And now he ignores me. What can I do? This whole situation makes me feel so sad. I’ve talked to him about this before about that previous time it happened and he agreed it was stupid. What can I do? If I ignore him for too long he lashes out on me, I know it. He’s really wonderful besides this days he gets like this. He loves me, I’m his best friend. And I do love him. I want to help him.
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silivrentoliel
03-25-14, 03:47 PM
I used to pick fights with my husband as a way of releasing the chemicals my body needed to help me deal with my unmedicated ADHD... it was awful for our relationship, and even worse when he realized I was doing it on purpose (although I didn't realize *why* I was doing it).

Once he's calmed down and in a more rational state of mind, can you bring this up to him and try to get him to talk through what he might have been feeling? It could have just been triggered by anxiety, but there's no telling if he refuses to talk about it.

Kitty15
03-25-14, 04:04 PM
Once he's calmed down and in a more rational state of mind, can you bring this up to him and try to get him to talk through what he might have been feeling? It could have just been triggered by anxiety, but there's no telling if he refuses to talk about it.

He always tells me it's anxiety for no reason and when he's rational he agrees his way of release is stupid. Today he told me the same thing again - the anxiety part, I mean. He says I should be satisfied with that explanation. It's impossible to talk to him right now or for a few days, I think. Whatever I say, he finds a way to turn it against me. He said a few hours ago I play the poor victim role and I'm high maintenance, that if things don't go my way and always perfect I turn into a spoiled child. I said I was sorry for a few things I did. Because I know him, I know how he reacts but if I'm pushed to a limit it's hard to control my own emotions. But I did say I was sorry. His reply was all about attacking me. I replied back, ignored most of it. My reply was explaining to him why I went to see him today. He thought I went to force him to apologize and be fine with me. Let's see how it goes.

DistractedLemur
03-25-14, 04:43 PM
Have a read of this http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15331 and see if any of that fits? I could be way off, I just don't like that whole "push/pull, stay/go away, it's all your fault" type stuff. I had enough of that myself to last a lifetime.

Also read Bella's thread about love, just 'cos everyone should: :)
http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=159781

Good luck!

Lunacie
03-25-14, 07:03 PM
He always tells me it's anxiety for no reason and when he's rational he agrees his way of release is stupid. Today he told me the same thing again - the anxiety part, I mean. He says I should be satisfied with that explanation. It's impossible to talk to him right now or for a few days, I think. Whatever I say, he finds a way to turn it against me. He said a few hours ago I play the poor victim role and I'm high maintenance, that if things don't go my way and always perfect I turn into a spoiled child. I said I was sorry for a few things I did. Because I know him, I know how he reacts but if I'm pushed to a limit it's hard to control my own emotions. But I did say I was sorry. His reply was all about attacking me. I replied back, ignored most of it. My reply was explaining to him why I went to see him today. He thought I went to force him to apologize and be fine with me. Let's see how it goes.

I take an antidepressant (generic Zoloft) to treat my anxiety disorder.

My family tell me that I'm much easier to live with these days, not so angry.

VeryTired
03-25-14, 07:38 PM
There could be lots of things going on with your boyfriend, but I think many of us here do recognize that painful confusing situation where one person uses anger at another to rev himself up. My partner used to do this before getting diagnosed and starting medication. It confused me so much. Once he even picked a fight with me because he said (accurately!) that I am terrible at fighting and don't even want to fight back ...

When I read a description of people with ADHD using conflict as way to get a needed surge of dopamine, I began to understand what was happening. In a way that made it better, since I knew what was up. In a way it made it worse, because I realized I had wasted tons of heartache and soul-searching on issues that didn't exist or didn't matter.

But once we both understood the pattern, we could talk about it or deflect it if it started to arise, and the stimulant medication has been enormously helpful for my partner so that he now rarely feels the need to generate or use conflict this way. I wonder if your boyfriend might need to speak to his doctor about whether his present medication is optimal.

Kitty15
03-25-14, 08:24 PM
When I read a description of people with ADHD using conflict as way to get a needed surge of dopamine, I began to understand what was happening. In a way that made it better, since I knew what was up. In a way it made it worse, because I realized I had wasted tons of heartache and soul-searching on issues that didn't exist or didn't matter.

That's exactly how I feel. That previous situation back in November got really bad partly because I could not understand it at all. I kept thinking why it was happening like that and to me. I've tried to come up with possible explanations, nothing fitted. It was exhausting and draining. I've tried to make the situation a little bit better, tried various approaches but nothing worked. It made all worse. By the end I was so tired I just couldn't handle it with a cold head. I understood it later when he started the treatment. Looking back at that behaviour, reading old messages from that time, listening to what he says now and reading a lot about ADHD. It makes it better now because I know where it comes from and I don't blame myself anymore. I know I'm not 100% correct dealing with it now, but at least I don't panic as much and think better before I act. I hope this time will be different because I don't think I can handle another very painful month.

VeryTired
03-25-14, 09:25 PM
Kitty-

I think we are talking about two different things at once here.

1. Your boyfriend's problem with using conflict to energize himself.
2. Your problem in being in a relationship with someone who is using you by making you take the brunt of his self-medicating through conflict.

You can't solve problem number 1. That's his concern, and he either addresses it or he doesn't. You can't do it for him, or make him do it. Problem 2 is yours to solve alone. You have to recognize the situation, and take action to resolve it.

It's one thing if he understands what he is doing, wants to change, is working on solutions for this problem. But it's another thing if not. If not, you have to ask yourself if you are willing to accept that someone you love is not treating you well. The fact that it is caused by his ADHD doesn't mean that it's OK, or that you have to take it.

If you decide that having your boyfriend work up anger to direct toward you isn't OK with you, then you can tell him this, and explain that you aren't willing to accept being treated this way. Either he gets help/changes, or you move on. But you have to really mean it, and be prepared to act decisively if he doesn't make positive changes. You need to ask yourself whether you can stay in this situation now that you have understood what it is. It's possible to love someone, but to be unable to be with them if they hurt you.

This must be hard for you--sympathy and good wishes--

RedHairedWitch
03-26-14, 06:39 AM
I feel I must point out that jumping to the conclusion that one is using conflict with their partner to stim them self is a little less than kind. Especially when he has anxiety issues and is telling you that he is having anxiety issues.

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_types_symptoms_treatment.htm

I suppose from the outside, seeing someone in the middle of an anxiety episode could look like "Oh he's just choosing to be a jerk right now" but that is not fair nor is it correct.

First of all, anxiety is real. Secondly, it it's horrible to be inside of. Third, it cannot be reasoned with. Nor can you reason when in the throws of an anxiety episode.

http://anxietypanichealth.com/2008/10/01/im-dying-what-a-panic-attack-feels-like/

And finally, it is not something that you choose to do.

Everything you listed in your first post comes across as an anxiety issue. Not an ADHDer seeking conflict "to make himself feel better". He came to you seeking comfort, in a high strung anxious state. Sadly, in that state one is too agitated and anxious to receive comfort. He grew increasingly anxious and upset and irrational, despite both your best efforts. He asked you to go., he wanted you to stay. Anxiety is irrational, he didn't know what what the best course of action.
Then YOU got mad. And created the conflict. And proceeded to push him (for how many days after?) dropping by without an invitation, leaving him messages, demanding explanations.
In his anxious state he tried desperately to make you leave him be.
He was trying, in a panicked, irrational state of mind, to AVOID the conflict that you were creating.
Know how when you stub your toe and you want to hit something? If someone rushes over and grabs your foot, you might scream "Don't touch me!". Not very rational, but a gut reaction to avoid greater pain. Even though that person is just trying to help, and determine if you broke your toe.

He needs better treatment for his anxiety and ADHD. You need more education on both and better understanding and coping mechanisms. So that you guys can avoid these situations in the future.

(sorry my wording is a little harsh, it's very early in the morning)

mildadhd
03-26-14, 01:14 PM
One of the jobs of the higher frontal cortical regions of the brain, is to regulate and inhibit, lower subcortical emotion systems like RAGE (anger) and FEAR (anxiety)

The frontal cortical regions become aroused when angry, especially on the left side.

Front cortical regions become under aroused when anxious, especially on the right side.

(There are many brain areas involved in ADHD, in the ADHD brain, the right frontal cortex is slightly smaller than average)

Neural activity is reduced in the right frontal cortex, in people with ADHD.

Normally the right frontal cortex would help inhibit immature outburst and have more self control.

But in ADHD it is not working correctly.

When the already ADHD impaired right frontal cortex becomes anxious, the right prefrontal cortex becomes even more impaired,

When lacking the ability to inhibit of lower emotional systems, irritablity and the anxiety becomes even worse.

I don't think your boyfriend is seeking conflict.

I think he would avoid conflict if he could.

He also might not even understand why everything is happening the way it sometimes does.

When I was younger I didn't understand, drank my face off, and made things even worse.

(good thing is I don't ever feel like drinking any more.)

Out of every ADHD topic, I hate my mood swings the most.

And is the part of ADHD I would like to change the most.


I can also understand how a non ADHD partner could really be offended and confused.

As a male I get completely embarrassed, I could never hurt anybody physically, although when I was younger before diagnosis I used to punch myself in the head.

I don't do that anymore, but have still been known to stomp my feet in tantrum, now again.

:o








Peripherals

Lunacie
03-26-14, 02:52 PM
^ Thank you Peripheral, for explaining how the brain works - or doesn't work -

and that it may not be a case of seeking conflict as stimulation.



My relationship was backwards from the OP's. My hubby would pick fights with me to get me past a bad mood.

Having undiagnosed ADHD, it took me a loooong time to figure this out and stop reacting to it.

And how do most people deal with change? They try even harder to keep things the same.

So yeah, he tried even harder to pick fights with me. It amused me. Him, not so much.

mildadhd
03-26-14, 05:22 PM
Thanks Lunacie,

I left the actual basic SEEKING system out of the my last post to avoid confusion, between the actual basic emotion SEEKING system, and the subjective use of the term "seeking", in the OP title.

SEEKING is a positive basic emotion, originating in the lower subcortical areas of the brain which provides lifes enthusiastic drive, and feels good, when balanced. (dopamine)

When the SEEKING system is underactive, feelings of manic (to sad) may occur.(dopamine to low)

When the SEEKING system is overactive, feelings of mania (to happy) may occur.(dopamine to high)


There are times when anger and fear may help us survive.

Example: a animal wants to eat me, and my only option is to run away, or fight back, so I don't get eaten.

But this example is not something I would choose to experience or make me feel better.

It could be argued that maybe in the short term I would happy because I got way, and survived.

But the experience would probably cause more distress and more anxiety long term.

Prof. Panksepp found that all mammals that have been exposed to stimulation that makes them angry, turned off the the angry stimulation, if they where given the opportunity to switch the stimulation off.

Meaning it was a punishement and that none of the animals wanted it to happen.

I don't think any of us want to be irritable or anxious, and would not be irritable or anxious, if given the choice.


Peripherals

mildadhd
03-26-14, 10:24 PM
"..but a gut reaction to avoid greater pain" -RHW


Thanks RedHairedWhich

Sometimes I wonder if there is also a gut reaction to avoid greater relationship pain.

Not sure if it is present at birth ,or, learned with experience, or, something else...?


Peripherals